One of my favorite books as a kid was a book entitled The Third Saturday in October by Al Browning. As an Alabama kid in the early 2000s, it helped me cope with all the losses to Tennessee. I got to go in and read about the good years when Bear Bryant beat the Volunteers 11 straight times instead of thinking about how bad Phillip Fulmer and his team would beat up on the Crimson Tide and whoever their coach would be the next season.
This rivalry has been a streaky series from the beginning. Since 1955, there has only been one occurrence of a team’s winning streak stopping at just one game. Whether it was Alabama’s domination in the 70s or the Volunteers’ seven straight victories starting in 1995, these teams don’t like to let go of the bragging rights once they get them back.
It might technically be the fourth Saturday in October but it doesn’t take anything away from either of these rival fan bases. Alabama and Tennessee will always set aside this as their “hate week.”
Nick Saban may not understand it yet, as he would have no reason to hate Tennessee. They haven’t been giving him many troubles over the course of his eight years in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide have won all eight games by an average of 23.5 points. Defense has led Alabama to most of those wins but the offense has been known to have a little bit of fun, especially in Tuscaloosa (except for Rocky Block).
So as everyone hopes and prepares for another cigar smoking evening in Bryant-Denny Stadium, let’s take a look back at the last eight games in this series.
2007: Alabama 41, (20) Tennessee 17 in Tuscaloosa
Many people forget how much fun this game was as most Alabama fans like to forget about 2007 as a whole. However, before the terrible November, D.J. Hall and the Alabama offense made things look easy in this upset victory. Hall finished the night with 13 catches for 185 yards and two touchdowns from quarterback John Parker Wilson. Terry Grant added 103 rushing yards for the Crimson Tide offense that finished with more than 500 yards. Kareem Jackson intercepted two passes and the Tide improved to 6-2 in Nick Saban’s first season.
2008: (2) Alabama 29, Tennessee 9 in Knoxville
The Tide’s first undefeated regular season went through Knoxville, where the Tide were nearly flawless in a blowout win. Three penalties and a fumble were the only mistakes on the night and the defense held the Volunteers to just 173 yards of total offense. Roy Upchurch and Glen Coffee combined for 181 total yards on their own, each scoring a touchdown on the ground. Leigh Tiffin had three field goals and the Tide improved to 8-0 on the season.
2009: (1) Alabama 12, Tennessee 10 in Tuscaloosa
The most memorable game in the streak in probably the Tide’s worst performance. Jonathan Crompton led a seemingly unstoppable passing attack against the best defense in the country. Mark Ingram lost a rare fumble and the Volunteers were primed for an upset on the road. Everyone knows how the story ends though, as Terrence Cody saved the day with two field goal blocks in the fourth quarter. “Rocky Block” is already a major part of the Tide’s football history.
2010: (7) Alabama 41, Tennessee 10 in Knoxville
Taurean Poole gave the Vols an early 7-0 lead and the Tide went into halftime only up 13-10. But they turned it on in the second half, behind Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. The rushing duo had two touchdowns each in the second half and combined for 211 yards of total offense. Julio Jones helped with 221 receiving yards on 12 catches from Greg McElroy. AJ McCarron also threw his first career touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Even in the down year, the Tide made things seem simple in Neyland Stadium.
2011: (2) Alabama 37, Tennessee 6 in Tuscaloosa
Before the Game of the Century happened at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Crimson Tide shut down a bad Tennessee team. The defense allowed just 155 yards of total offense, just 3.1 yards per play, and six total first downs. The offense scored 31 points in the second half, led by two Trent Richardson rushing touchdowns. Dont’a Hightower led the defense with eight total tackles, three pass deflections and an interception.
2012: (1) Alabama 44, Tennessee 13 in Knoxville
This was the Tide’s third straight 31-point win over Tennessee and it didn’t take long for Amari Cooper and T.J. Yeldon to make their marks on the series. The freshman receiver had 162 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches, including the game’s opening score. Yeldon had 127 rushing yards for two more scores, helping the offense go over 500 yards of total offense. C.J. Mosley and Robert Lester both had interceptions.
2013: (1) Alabama 45, Tennessee 10 in Tuscaloosa
The last time this game was played in Alabama, the Tide jumped out of the gates quick and never looked back. Amari Cooper had the game’s first touchdown on a 54-yard pass from A.J. McCarron. T.J. Yeldon had two first half touchdowns and Landon Collins returned an interception 89 yards at the end of the first half to extend Alabama’s lead to 35-0 after just two quarters. Josh Dobbs saw his first playing time against Alabama in 2013, finishing with 94 total yards of offense.
2014: (4) Alabama 34, Tennessee 20 in Knoxville
The Crimson Tide jumped out to a 27-0 first half lead, once again being led by Amari Cooper on offense. The junior finished with nine catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns, both of the scores coming in the first quarter. Cooper, Yeldon and DeAndrew White were the only players to catch a pass from Blake Sims but the running game stayed strong. Yeldon, Sims, Derrick Henry and Jalston Fowler all ran for 20-plus yards and averaged more than five yards per carry. Dobbs got going in the second half and cause the Tide defense a lot of problems with his running ability. His two touchdown passes helped close the gap but couldn’t complete the comeback.
Caleb Turrentine is a contributor at Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow him on Twitter, @CalebTurrentine.